In our latest look back at the history of golf in the Middle East, we dive into the development of Doha Golf Club with the help of David Burns, who was first introduced to the the region in 1967 when he was on his way to join a military unit in Singapore.
The aircraft he was flying on lost an engine en route and they ended up landing in Sharjah, where he spent a week with the Solomon Scouts. After leaving the army in the 70s, he moved to Abu Dhabi to join Spinneys before working across the GCC for next 35 years.
Here, he details how he aided the development of Doha Golf Club and tells us about the many famous faces he met during VIP trips to the course!
“It came about when the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani was developing Qatar,” said Burns. “He had big plans for the west bay, north of west bank, and wanted to build a load of hotels and a golf course. There was a sand course at one side, there still is, but they pushed for a grass course.
“The President of the Qatar Golf Federation had contacted Peter Harradine to design the course, so he came and surveyed the land and then the order was given to Qatar National Hotels Company to build the course.
“I flew out and joined the company on the day they celebrated the three-month anniversary of breaking ground on the new course. The Chairman at the time asked me if I know much about golf, I told him that I played and he basically gave me the keys to the kingdom and told me to make sure the course was built to budget.
“So, I had to make sure that Harradine didn’t go over budget, I spent two years with him and his side-kick and we had some stand-up fights, but it all went well in the end!
“I think I was the first non-star member to play every single hole as they became available, and when the course was finally finished, we had a board meeting, and one of the board members said ‘well, what do you want to do now, Mr. Harradine?’ And he said ‘I’d like to keep the course closed for a year, to allow all of the plants and trees and the grass to grow.
‘And if we do that, the course will be good for 25 years. If you let people play on it at the moment, it’ll cost you a fortune maintaining it.’ They agreed and gave the golf course to me to take care of.
“It was brilliant, because I was known as ‘Mr. Golf’ and I could play golf on my own 18- hole golf course any day I wanted. Seriously, it was like that, and nobody bothered me.
“Every VIP who came to Qatar, who played golf, I would get a call from the foreign office asking if I could organise a golf event? I’d obviously say yes and we would take them round.
“I can remember playing golf with Boris Becker and his wife before he got divorced. The president of Lebanon, the chairman of Nippon Industries, I mean it was just incredible.”